“Interning abroad not only gave me an insight of a new culture, but it also opened great wanderlust opportunities and helped me gained countless of international friends. AIESEC can make it happen!”
This week I had a chance to meet with Danielle Phan and ask about her recent AIESEC exchange experience. It was a great pleasure hearing about her exciting stories learning about various cultural differences.
Danielle went on an exchange through the Global Community Development Program (GCDP) to teach English at Chongming Elementary School in Taiwan for two months during the past summer. She was influenced by Cindy Lou, AIESEC Toronto’s current VP for Outgoing exchange at the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus (UTSC), and her EP manager, Lakshana Kannan. As well as this, the efficiency and professionalism in AIESEC Taiwan’s responses strengthened Danielle’s decision to go on exchange. Danielle went to Taiwan with passion and will for independence, and she came back with gratitude and a different worldview.
Danielle taught English to children from grades 4 to 6. Although the language barrier created difficulties in communication, it did not stop all the fun times Danielle had with the students. They used Google Translator as a tool, and usually spent hours in laughter trying to figure out the correct translation by putting together all the awkwardly-worded phrases. Many students were afraid to speak in English during the first week of classes but as a teacher, Danielle encouraged students to speak English and to not be afraid of mistakes. Danielle contributed her Canadian values of happiness and acceptance into the disciplined Taiwanese school. Meanwhile, she learned about Taiwanese culture and language through her interactions with the students.
Taiwanese education system is very sheltered as parents and teachers restrict children to do the “right” thing based on what they believe benefit students, while creativity and thinking outside of the box is not encouraged. As the education system is test-oriented, students tend to spend a lot of time studying and many would go to “cram” schools after school. Many schools are science and math focused, and the materials they learn as elementary students are much deeper than the ones in Canada. Danielle found that many teachers were curious about the education system in Canada. Some said they like the western style of teaching better, but they were unsure of how to implement it in Taiwan.
The teachers at the school were very friendly. They welcomed Danielle to come over to their houses, meet their families, and share their cultures. They were very open to Danielle and showed her way around Taiwan as locals. Even though her host mother was initially very busy, Danielle had the opportunity to spend time with many families – hang out with children of the teachers, and go to traditional occasions with the mothers. She learned about the different background and experiences of these teachers and of their children. Danielle had a lot of fun travelling to Taipei (Taiwan’s business and entertainment center), going shopping and clubbing, dinning at restaurants, etc. The food in Taiwan was very good and also very convenient.
It was after some time, Danielle’s host mother opened up to her. Through conversations, they shared personal stories and felt like they knew each other from a past life. As a very successful businesswoman, and a single mother of two, Danielle describes her as a very smart, strong, and independent person. It was through her experience, Danielle realized how powerful and inspiring Taiwanese women can be.
Many people were met, many things happened, and many stories were told within those short two months. After coming back to Canada, Danielle experienced a reverse culture shock. She felt she had a new personality and a new perspective of the world. Because of her experience in Taiwan and her impact on others of a different culture, she realized what she can do to become a better person.
Danielle joined AIESEC Toronto OGX this September to help other exchange participants after her GCDP in Taiwan.
This is from Danielle:
Taiwan, 2013, AIESEC 2013
“I can honestly say that I’ve learned so much going on an exchange. I urge all to go on an exchange sometimes in this lifetime of theirs. It’s an experience you’ll never forget. It does change you in some magically way. The people I’ve met on this trip will forever be apart of me; for they took the time to get to know me, and willingly, eagerly, and kindly welcomed me into their family and culture. My trip to Taiwan taught me a new lifestyle of independence, and cultural awareness. The experience has instilled in me the idea of open mindedness and acceptance in regards to other cultures. My overall experience has gain not only respect for myself, but respect of others. I return with stories and pictures, and reverse cultural shock. It was a grand and memorable 2 months of my life in a beautiful culture. It’s surreal what AIESEC did to me.
Yes, I took a lot of pictures and videos; but it was all to document my experience and show you all, hoping that one day you can make your mark in the world like I did 🙂 ♥
You can check out Danielle’s Vlogs here:
The school also wrote a blog to comment on Danielle’s experience in Taiwan. They were glad Danielle came to bring a different perspective to their classrooms, and they appreciated this kind of intercultural learning experience. The story was published in a Taiwanese newspaper: http://schnews.tn.edu.tw/index.php?news_sno=4346
By: Cathryn Wang